Though the British government is protesting that they’ve been completely forthcoming as regards their aiding and abetting the development of US anti-ballistic missile technology, I can’t help but feel that there’s plenty that has simply passed by the public.
Some things the public may not know: the US has formally withdrawn from the 1972 ABM Treaty with Russia. The strategic offensive reduction treaty or SORT signed in its place in 2001 (in force from 2002 until 2012) requires no verification, no decommissioning of weapons and is basically a “peace in our time” type of document.
Since that withdrawal, the Russians have been engaged in building their own anti-ballistic missile technology – which went active around Moscow in February of 2007. The Americans have not only been building and augmenting their ABM technology, they’ve roped the UK into acting as a base for the advanced radars and such which operate that technology.
As I understand it, ABM weapons would only (possibly) stop a limited number of incoming ICBMs – the most likely candidates being the miniscule arsenals of North Korea or Iran, should the latter ever finally acquire nuclear warheads.
Still, what are we doing? We are effectively now engaged in a new nuclear arms race. In 2003 news was leaked by senior scientists that meetings were being held to discuss building new nuclear weapons – more ‘usable’ nuclear weapons that could perhaps neutralise the arsenal of smaller states without requiring the activation of the titanic 5,500 ICBM arsenal of the US.
The UK has now extended the crime of developing defences to our own home territory – and no one except the Russians can even reach us should they have nuclear or chemical-armed missiles.
Why is it a crime? Because all it does is force China and Russia to give consideration to spending on ABMs and to developing better, more effective nuclear arsenals to offset the advantage the US has in its ABM network.
I have no real opposition to ABM; my concern is that, when lined up beside the renewal of Trident, it just goes to show how opposed our government is to the international disarmament process. The Bush administration is continuing Clinton’s advances in reducing the number of nuclear missiles the USA has, yet we’re building more nuclear weapons.
If the UK disarmed totally – unilaterally even – it would not matter a damn to the balance of nuclear power. Having all the nuclear weapons and missile defences in the world is not going to stop a dirty bomb going off in the centre of London.
Nor would unilateral disarmament even be unique! South Africa disarmed entirely in the mid-1990’s. It’s nuclear arsenal was small and not armed to the tip of rockets, but that is a step forward. Of the former Soviet Republics, the Ukraine was actually given command and control of some of the Russian nuclear arsenal – but voluntarily disarmed, decommissioned the weapons and gave them to the Russians to store.
I see no reason whatsoever not to thank the Americans for their help during the Cold War and follow the precedent of the Ukraine. It can do nothing but free up money better spent on other things.